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Spirituality

The Virus Has Something Important to Teach Us

David Langness | May 18, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | May 18, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

On the news last night I saw a group of anti-quarantine protesters carrying signs, and one of the signs said “I want a haircut!” I realized then that the coronavirus has something important to teach us.

Later that night, Stephen Colbert joked about that same sign:

Many of the protesters lamented the loss of their everyday activities, like this woman in Wisconsin with the sign, ‘I want a haircut.’ Uh, looks like your sign has a typo. We fixed it for you. It should read, ‘I want to endanger the lives of your grandparents in exchange for frosted tips.’

Funny, but in a really dismal way, right?

If we look deep inside that dark humor, and even inside the coronavirus pandemic itself, we can discover a profound truth – one the Baha’i teachings want us to contemplate and fully understand:

It is obvious that all created things are connected one to another by a linkage complete and perfect, even, for example, as are the members of the human body. Note how all the members and component parts of the human body are connected one to another. In the same way, all the members of this endless universe are linked one to another. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

We are one, the Baha’i teachings have told us since the mid-1800s. Now, the virus quietly tries to tell us, too. We’re all human beings, in this together. We each have linkages – genetic, material and spiritual – to everyone else on Earth. We each breathe the same air and drink the same water. No matter where we live on this planet, we’re related to all other human beings. We each initially have the exact same level of immunity to this novel coronavirus as every other person – absolutely none. We each fight the same internal spiritual battle between selfishness and selflessness. We each have the exact same level of susceptibility to the virus. We each can infect one another, knowingly or not.

Yes, some may have no discernable symptoms while others may die from the effects of the virus – but because of our human oneness, we each have a responsibility to one another to respect and honor the lives of every other member of the human family. We can best accomplish that goal now, the scientific community has repeatedly informed us, by keeping our distance from each other physically. Strangely, to be united, we have to stay separated – at least for a while.

Of course, distancing ourselves physically doesn’t mean we’re spiritually separate – in fact, the opposite is true. The pandemic has clearly pointed out human unity and interdependence as a positive reality, as the best way to deal with a common enemy. We are, as the Baha’i teachings say, “connected one to another by a linkage complete and perfect”.

The governments of the world have all implemented some form of lock-down, social distancing or stay-at-home order, and the message that near-universal response sends should come across loud and clear: we consent to suffer the negative effects of joblessness and isolation from one another precisely because we love humanity. No animal population has the ability or the consciousness to self-quarantine, after all. When one of the members of a herd of antelope or a band of primates contracts a potentially fatal disease, they not only can’t comprehend its cause, but can’t consciously separate themselves from one another to minimize its impact. Only human beings have the ability to do that. Our human tribe has the great blessing of being able to intellectually and scientifically understand the cause of a pandemic; to make enlightened policy based on that science; and then to carry it out, as most of the world has now done.

Sure, some people dislike the effects of a global quarantine. It’s difficult, impractical, inconvenient, and even impossible for lots of us. Some can’t survive if they don’t work. Some must work to supply food; some take care of the sick; some keep the peace. But for the most part, and for most people, our public  health experts, our scientists and our governments have asked us to stay home and stay away from one another for our own protection – and for the protection of society as a whole. When we do that, we’re defending ourselves and our families, as well as the people we don’t know whose lives we could directly endanger otherwise. Ultimately, by guarding and protecting others, we’re expressing our love for humanity:

… we must strive with all our heart and soul that this love may take possession of us so that all humanity – whether it be in the East or in the West – may be connected through the bond of this divine affection; for we are all the waves of one sea; we have come into being through the same bestowal and are recipients from the same center. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Haste thou to life before death cometh; haste thou to the spring season before autumn draweth in; and before illness striketh, haste thou to healing – that thou mayest become a physician of the spirit who, with the breaths of the Holy Spirit, healeth all manner of sickness in this famed and glorious age. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

All of this really does come down to love. If you love others, as every religion asks us to, then you’ll want to do your utmost to protect them from suffering and death, regardless of whether you know them or not.

For example, you probably don’t know my aunt Midge who lives in St. Louis, but her life is now in your hands – literally. If you go out and socialize, if you break the chain of love and caring that the quarantine represents, if you become an unwitting, asymptomatic link in the exponential chain of transmission this disease is now busy constructing, the virus could find its way to her. She’s a kind, wonderful person, with children and grandchildren who love her dearly. Their lives would suffer tremendously if she died from a preventable cause like coronavirus. 

So yes, folks, I know your hair doesn’t look its best at the moment – mine doesn’t either – but if you can, please stay home and follow the guidelines, despite their difficult negative impacts. Make a selfless decision to protect others. If you do, you’ll be taking part in the ongoing process the Baha’i teachings call “the spirit of the age” – the unification of the entire human race, which comes from love and the deep spiritual recognition of our organic oneness.

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Comments

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  • Cyndy Pratt
    May 25, 2020
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    I look up at the world around me and think some people have clearly forgotten what it means to be part of humanity and all the responsibility that entails. Instead of properly leading their countries, I also see a lots of badly behaved poorly performing politicians blame gaming instead of leading their people. They're showing real contempt towards other views, other leaders, other countries and their own people. They're acting like spoilt, selfish children having tantrums. They need to take a long, hard look at themselves. They cannot blame a virus for their behaviour! Here in ...New Zealand, a democractic welfare state, we now know first hand what millions of people in any country can achieve - working together, in unity, not negativity.
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  • May 23, 2020
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    This. We’re playing a dangerous and short-sighted game. Economic collapse will kill tens of millions through poverty, starvation, abuse, suicide, etc. Is Aunt Midge worth more than hundreds of thousands of children starving and dying around the world? I’m not saying she is or isn’t. The sad truth is we’ve already apparently made the choice that the suffering from this virus is worse than suffering from extreme economic issues and the mental and physical side effects of this shut down. But I think it’s at least worth mentioning that this isn’t about hair cuts. And Even then, for that barber ...it’s not about vanity—it’s about feeding HIS family the same way the author want to protect his family.
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  • Neil Chase
    May 18, 2020
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    Early models and assumptions will be refined as we learn more about the virus.
  • Carl Brehmer
    May 18, 2020
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    You are promoting a false dichotomy--either the U.S. government puts 30+ million people out of work visa vi declaring the businesses that they work for "non-essential" or your aunt Midge will die of COVID-19. Their are proven ways of maintaining a strong, vibrant economy and fighting a pandemic simultaneously. You are also promoting the false premise that a relatively small number of government employed "scientists" speak for the "scientific community." If one were to practice the Baha'i principle of the independent investigation of truth one would quickly discover that extreme "social distancing" actually abandons 150+ years of ...scientific research on how to best deal with an infectious viral respiratory pandemic.
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  • Manav Dutta
    May 18, 2020
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    Unfortunately the science shows the lockdowns don't conclusively save more lives beyond moderate social distancing with bans on large gatherings: https://www.wsj.com/articles/do-lockdowns-save-many-lives-is-most-places-the-data-say-no-11587930911 Florida and Georgia have reopened and have not seen a spike in cases. Florida, in particular, has large communities of elderly people and should therefore be vulnerable. There is a better way: build herd immunity among the young and healthy quickly while protecting and isolating the elderly and vulnerable. 50% of deaths have occurred among those 80 and with 95% of deaths occurring in those over 60. The lockdown may work in the short-term but it ...creates a dilemma for how to reopen safely
    Read more...
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